|Ted Hood, besides being the founder of Hood Sailmakers which, at one time was the worlds largest, was a successful racing skipper, founder of Little Harbor Yachts, and an innovative marine inventor and yacht designer.|
Hood officially started his sailmaking business in 1950, though during the 1940's sail repair was a side business for him, using the living room of his parent's home as a loft floor. By the mid-1950's, Hood was selling sails to the top sailors of the time. In 1959, Hood's success skippering his first major design "Robin" in that year's New York Yacht Club Annual Cruise (winning 4 out of 7 races) put Hood firmly in public's mind as a top sailor, sailmaker and yacht designer. After that, Hood's sailmaking business boomed and by the end of the 1960's, Hood Sailmaker lofts covered the globe, from home base in Marblehead to Australia.
While his sailmaking business grew, Hood also built and skippered a successful series of keel and centerboard racing boats under names Robin, Robin Too and even Robin Too II …there have been so many "Robins" over the years that Hood has almost lost count. Hood captured first in the Newport-Bermuda Rae in 1968; he sailed another victory in the 1971 Marblehead-Halifax Race, (10 years after his 1961 Halifax win); and Robin Too II took the 1974 SORC (Southern Ocean Racing Circuit). That was perhaps Hood's most successful year in racing. As skipper of the new Sparkman & Stephens designed aluminum-hulled Courageous he won the America's Cup sailing away from Australia's Southern Cross, 4-0. Three years later he campaigned Independence, the second 12-Meter he designed (the first was the 1960's Nefertiti"), against Courageous, which he had redesigned, but was runner up to Courageous and Ted Turner in the defender trials.
As an inventor, Hood was the first sailmaker to weave his own Dacron cloth. He is also credited with early designs for grooved headstays, jib roller furling, as well as the Stoway mast and the Stoboom. More than 6,000 of his Little Harbor yachts, from 35 to 75 feet, are sailing today. But perhaps the most famous of his vessels is the 60 foot "American Promise", in which Dodge Morgan set a solo circumnavigation record of 150 days in 1985-86; it was the last Hood boat to be built in Marblehead before Hood's design and building facilities moved to Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
In the early 1980's, Hood sold his sailmaking operation to concentrate on his boatbuilding interests. What had been a side business turned into Hood's main business as Hood started building and marketing his Little Harbor line of sailboats. These yachts were built in Taiwan; first at yards that Hood had relationships with, and later at his own yard located in the northern end of Taiwan. By the end of the 1980's, Little Harbor had become known as one of the highest quality yachts one could own.
Hood did not stop there. His dream had also been to create a world-class yacht service center. For many years he had been seeking the right place to do this, and in 1985, he found that location; the Navy's World War II fuel depot in Portsmouth, RI known as "Melville" was being sold off by the government. Hood purchased the land and by 1987 had built the "Ted Hood Marine Complex". The cornerstone of the complex was Hood's "Little Harbor Marine" yacht service business, but the complex also rented space to many marine companies to provide "one-stop service" for customers.
In 1987 Hood also began building boats in Portsmouth having purchased the assets of the Black Watch company. This was Hood's first venture into powerboat building. The late 1980's and early 1990's saw a sharp drop in boat sales. As a result, Hood consolidated operations by moving sailboat building to Portsmouth from the Far East. As sailboat sales continued to declined, Hood moved aggressively into the powerboat market with his line of Little Harbor "Whisperjet" water-jet powered yachts. By 1998, Hood's boat production was 100% power, not by choice but by requirements of the boat market.
During the 1990's Little Harbor Marine grew to be the best and largest yacht service facility in the Northeast. Little Harbor Whisperjet sales were strong as well, and Hood's yacht brokerage and yacht design divisions also did well.
In 1999, the opportunity became available to sell the company to the investor group that two years earlier had purchased The Hinckley Company. The Hood family thought the match was good, adding to Hinckley's world-renowned boat building business a more extensive and southern service operation. So, in March of 1999, the company was sold, and Hinckley and Little Harbor came under common ownership.